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Lovecraft Rising:

Tracing the Growth of Scholarship on Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1990-2004

Eric Hoefler

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is probably the most influential yet least known writer of

weird fiction. Contemporary authors, including Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, Ramsey

Campbell, Clive Barker, and Michael Chabon, hail him as a master of the weird, four decades of

scholarship have mapped the themes he laid out in his fiction and elsewhere and their influence

on the evolution of the horror and science fiction genres, and thousands of derivative works have

been composed as part of the cult following often labeled the “Cthulhu Mythos.” Yet despite his

far-reaching influence, few readers outside the circle of horror enthusiasts know much about him

beyond a vague recognition of his name, and serious scholarship on his life and work is

frustratingly difficult to locate. Of course, in many ways, the plight of Lovecraft scholarship is

the plight of genre fiction scholarship in general. Only recently, and always slowly, have literary

scholars given serious consideration to genre fiction. However, with the release of Lovecraft‟s

fiction in more reputable editions over the last few years—including Penguin Classics, Modern

Library, and the Library of America‟s 2005 release of H. P. Lovecraft: Tales, edited by Peter

Straub1—there is hope that Lovecraft and his contributions to literature—which are not confined

1 Daniel Handler, who also writes under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, reviewed this edition in the New York
Times Review of Books. (Handler, Daniel. "'H. P. Lovecraft': Unnatural Selection." Book Review. The New York
Times Sunday Book Review 17 April 2005, Late Edition ed., sec. 7: 7.)
Lovecraft, H. P. At the Mountains of Madness. Definitive Edition. New York: Modern Library, 2005.
Lovecraft, H. P. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. S. T. Joshi, ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.
Lovecraft, H. P. The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories. S. T. Joshi, ed. New York: Penguin
Books, 2004.
Lovecraft, H. P. Tales. Peter Straub, ed. Library of America. New York: Penguin Putnam, 2005.
Lovecraft, H. P. The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories. S. T. Joshi, ed. New York: Penguin Books,
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to genre fiction—will finally attain more widespread recognition, and that scholarship on

Lovecraft will find its way into more reputable scholarly journals.

This survey will focus on scholarship surrounding Lovecraft‟s fiction from 1990 to 2004

and will only discuss major works or important articles from established journals 2 in the

development of Lovecraft scholarship, though other works and articles may earn mention for the

sake of establishing context. One reason for beginning with the year 1990 relates to a significant

source of scholarship that will not be considered here: Lovecraft Studies. This journal—

originally a quarterly publication of Necronomicon press begun in 1979—contains a large

number of excellent scholarly articles, many of which served as seeds for later major works

discussed in this survey. In fact, during the 1980s, nearly all Lovecraft scholarship of merit was

published in Lovecraft Studies.3 However, as noted by Peter Cannon, one of Lovecraft‟s major

scholars and a regular contributor to Lovecraft Studies, the journal‟s audience and academic

status is severely limited. During the H. P. Lovecraft Centennial Conference held at Brown

University in 1990, Cannon deplored the state of Lovecraft studies within the larger academic

community. In his words: “We have attracted little notice in the academy, apart from Brown

University. The audience of Lovecraft Studies consists almost entirely of horror fiction fans; only

a handful of college libraries carry the premier journal in the field. Serious Lovecraft criticism

has rarely appeared in print outside the science-fiction horror-fantasy realm” (“Some Thoughts”

1). Therefore, while the journal is an essential component of Lovecraft scholarship, its contents

2 By “established,” I mean two things: journals that are not devoted exclusively to genre fiction, or journals that,
though they focus on genre fiction, have attained a high level of recognition within the larger academic

3 Copies of Lovecraft Studies, as well as many other primary sources related to the study of Lovecraft, can be
found as part of the H. P. Lovecraft Collection at Brown University—a collection of over 1,000 books and
magazines in over 20 languages, as well as a collection of over 2,000 original letters.
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do not bear on the focus of this survey, which is the growth of Lovecraft scholarship in the larger

academic community. As a result, articles from Lovecraft Studies will only be referenced to

further establish the context of other works, trends, or debates.

In addition, this survey will not address scholarship related to Lovecraft‟s verse (of which

most is considered inferior), nor of his extensive range of articles written for amateur journalism

publications. Neither will this survey discuss biographical work—that is to say, those works

related directly to the study of Lovecraft‟s life. Though many of the works considered here do

draw heavily on Lovecraft‟s voluminous body of personal letters in order to shed light on his

fiction, they do not have Lovecraft‟s life as their central focus. Finally, this survey will disregard

entirely the vast and growing body of derivative works4 as well as discussions of Lovecraft‟s

influence on other writers.

Of the trends in scholarship over the last fifteen years, the one that defines the focus for

this study is the growth of Lovecraft scholarship outside the small circle of devotees, and this

will serve as the study‟s method of organization. Another significant trend includes the long-

running debate over the identification and naming of what has been variously called the Cthulhu

mythos, the Lovecraft mythos, the Arkham cycle, and the Yog-Sothoth cycle, among others,

which also involves a consideration of Lovecraft‟s philosophy and worldview. Other trends of

note include the importance of place and tradition in Lovecraft‟s work and the shifts in critical

perspectives applied to his fiction—from traditional and formal approaches to psychoanalysis to

structuralism and post-structuralism.

4 For one thing, these derivates, often referred to collectively as “mythos works” after the controversial label
“Cthulhu mythos,” would be difficult to define. How much must a work pull from Lovecraft‟s work, and which
aspects, in order to be considered “of the mythos?” In 1999, Armitage House released A Cthulhu Mythos
Bibliography & Concordance that attempts to make these distinctions, citing more than 2,600 works, but as we
will discuss later in this survey, the concept of the “Cthulhu mythos” is highly problematic and one of the major
areas of debate in Lovecraft scholarship.
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In many ways, W. Paul Cook predicted the course of Lovecraft scholarship in an article

originally published in 1945. In the article, entitled “A Plea for Lovecraft,” Cook warns:

Irreparable harm is being done to Lovecraft by indiscriminate and even

unintelligent praise, by lack of unbiased and intelligent criticism, and by a warped

sense of what is due him in the way of publication of his works. … So wide a

circulation of even his worst stuff, and his worst was pretty bad, coupled with the

assurance that it is the work of a master, is certain to have a definite reaction, and

a very unfavorable one, as he comes to the notice of those whose knowledge of

literary values is not blinded or stultified by personal friendship and

unquestioning worship. (26)

Cook was not concerned that the uncritical attention from his fans would prevent

Lovecraft from receiving the recognition he deserved from the larger academic community, but

rather that it would seriously delay that recognition by cluttering his study with everything he

wrote—good and bad—rather than focusing on the small but significant body of work that

demonstrates his mastery and contributions to the field. Cook continued, “Indeed, he may

eventually come to be considered one of the supreme masters, but it will be in spite of all the

present over-praise, and when his work is boiled down to one well-chosen volume of no great

size” (26). It is still too early to know whether H. P. Lovecraft: Tales will serve as that “well-

chosen volume,” but it has taken at least sixty years for a serious attempt at following Cook‟s

advice—sixty years of slow movement from the small circle of devotees, to the larger circle of

serious scholars, to the hoped-for recognition and acceptance by the larger academic community.

In the same year as Cook‟s “Plea,” Edmund Wilson reviewed Lovecraft for The New

Yorker in an article entitled “Tales of the Marvellous and Ridiculous”—characteristically

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showing Wilson‟s disdain for genre fiction, but also proving Cook‟s point that mainstream

criticism would not abide indiscriminate devotion. Wilson‟s criticism is searing: “The only real

horror in most of these fictions is the horror of bad taste and bad art. Lovecraft was not a good

writer. … The Lovecraft cult, I fear, is on even a more infantile level than the Baker Street

Irregulars and the cult of Sherlock Holmes” (49). A few years later, in 1949, Fritz Lebier

published “A Literary Copernicus,” considered by contemporary scholars to be the finest general

critical essay on Lovecraft. In the article, Leiber asserts: “Howard Phillips Lovecraft was the

Copernicus of the horror story. He shifted the focus of the supernatural dread from man and his

little world and his gods, to the stars and the black and unplumbed gulfs of intergalactic space.

To do this effectively, he created a new kind of horror story and new methods for telling it” (50).

However, the article appeared not in The New Yorker or a publication of similar stature, but in

The Acolyte—a 1940s fanzine with a total run of fourteen issues. These two early critical

responses, true to Cook‟s warning, form the pattern of Lovecraft scholarship until at least 1990:

dismissal by mainstream academia, with the significant and insightful criticism (accompanied, of

course, with a larger portion of fannish drivel) produced by small-circulation, genre-centered

journals and small presses.

From the 1940s until the late 1970s, significant work outside of the fan publications

either focused on his life through a series of biographies, the early formulation of the “Cthulhu

Mythos” under the pen of August Derleth (of which more later), or occurred in France or Spain. 5

It wasn‟t until the 1980s, with the formation of Necronomicon press in 1979 and the publication

of Lovecraft Studies (and to a lesser degree Crypt of Cthulhu), that Lovecraft scholarship began

5 Lévy, Maurice. Lovecraft, Ou Du Fantastique. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1972. Later translated by S. T. Joshi,
and still considered the most insightful single volume of Lovecraft criticism. France and Spain have generally
considered Lovecraft a “neglected genius of American letters” (Wohleber, 82).
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to expand in scope and increase in scholarly merit. Even then, as discussed earlier, Lovecraft

Studies was confined to a small audience of fans and scholars who were already convinced of

Lovecraft‟s literary value.

At the same time that Lovecraft Studies began its run, the journal‟s editor, S. T. Joshi,

started building what is now his considerable reputation as a Lovecraft scholar. His first major

contribution to the field was H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades of Criticism, a collection of essays

that tracked the trends and highlights of Lovecraft scholarship from 1940 to 1980. He followed

this collection a year later with H. P. Lovecraft and Lovecraft Criticism: An Annotated

Bibliogrpahy and the year after that published a general introduction to Lovecraft as part of the

Starmont Reader‟s Guide series. With these three works, Joshi almost single-handedly set the

stage for Lovecraft scholarship over the next ten years. True to the pattern, though, the majority

of this scholarship happened within the pages of Lovecraft Studies and outside the attention of

the rest of the academic community. 6 Joshi recognized this problem, and in 1985 declared that

his goal was “to take Lovecraft away from the world of fantasy fandom and to establish him

definitively in the broader world of scholarly literary criticism” (Mariconda, “Expect” 25). While

the merits of the first half of that goal are arguable—a point this survey will return to later—

Lovecraft scholarship is still trying to accomplish the second half of that goal.

6 Of the few articles during the 1980s that did not appear in Lovecraft Studies, those with any larger significance
rely on a discussion of Lovecraft‟s influences or comparisons to other, more popular, writers.

Burleson, Donald R. “Lovecraft: The Hawthorne Influence.” Extrapolation 22.3 (1981): 262-64.

Cannon, Peter. "The Return of Sherlock Holmes and H. P. Lovecraft." Baker Street Journal 34 (1984): 217-20.

Price, Robert M. "Stephen King and the Lovecraft Mythos." Discovering Stephen King. Darrell Schweitzer, ed.
Vol. 8. Starmont Studies in Literary Criticism. Mercer Island: Starmont, 1985. 109-22.
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A number of works were released in and around 1990 that took major steps toward

Joshi‟s goal. Steven J. Mariconda provides an overview of these works and their bearing on the

field in his article “„Expect Great Revelations‟: Lovecraft Criticism in His Centennial Year.” The

article, however, appeared in Lovecraft Studies and is therefore not easily attainable, so a

summary of its contents will be helpful. Mariconda reviews the contributions of the field‟s major

scholars through 1991, beginning with Peter Cannon‟s H. P. Lovecraft entry in the Twayne‟s

United States Authors Series (1989). Cannon understands the problem facing Lovecraft

scholarship, and addresses the problem directly in his preface. “I have written this study with two

audiences in mind,” he says, “the believers and the skeptics” (xi). He continues, “Into the second

category I put the nonfans—including most English professors … I hope this study will persuade

them that Lovecraft is more than a mere horror writer …” (xi). The work is intended to be (as all

Twayne USAS guides) a concise critical introduction to Lovecraft. Lovecraft scholars, however,

seemed to expect something else and reacted negatively to Cannon‟s efforts, 7 to which Cannon

responded, defending his work as a general introduction, and stating “Cautious understatement,

in my opinion, will serve the cause of promoting Lovecraft better than otherwise” (“In Defense”

25)—an approach with which W. Paul Cook would agree. In any case, Mariconda found it a

helpful contribution, but admitted it “brought an era to a close with … the last in a series of

general books about Lovecraft” (“Expect” 24). An observation that is still correct—there have

been no new general Lovecraft introductions to date (Joshi‟s A Subtler Magick in 1996 is a

revision of his 1982 H. P. Lovecraft).

Mariconda next addresses Joshi‟s H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West (1990), the

first full-length philosophical study of Lovecraft—a work for which Mariconda finds Joshi

7 Reviews can be found in Lovecraft Studies issue 19/20 (Fall 1989).

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particularly suitable. Mariconda explains that, to prepare for the work, Joshi read all of Machen,

Dunsany, Blackwood, and Bierce, and reviewed the writings of Haeckel, Hugh Elliot, Santayana,

Joseph Wood Krutch, and Nietzsche—writers and philosophers to whom Lovecraft often refers

in his letters (“Expect” 24). Mariconda also addresses Joshi‟s The Weird Tale (1990), a survey of

the weird fiction of Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James,

Ambrose Bierce, and H. P. Lovecraft (whose section is titled “The Decline of the West”). It is

not an exhaustive study, nor does Joshi intend it to be, but rather a “preliminary to more

theoretical treatments” (Joshi, Weird 231).

Mariconda moves on to Donald R. Burleson‟s Lovecraft: Disturbing the Universe. This is

an important work for a number of reasons. Not only is Burleson‟s analysis insightful and well-

received by other Lovecraft scholars, but this is the first work that approaches the stories from a

post-structuralist school of criticism and without relying on Lovecraft‟s life and other writings

for analysis. Burleson built up to this work through deconstructionist articles published in the

1980s (in Lovecraft Studies and Crypt of Cthulhu),8 but many of these articles were poorly

received. Nevertheless, this work, while not in the main stream of Lovecraft scholarship, is

considered a successful addition. Most importantly, it begins to do exactly what Lovecraft

scholarship needed (and still needs, for the most part)—approach Lovecraft‟s literature on its

own terms (rather than relying on the pseudo-mythology that has built up around Lovecraft as a

“weird figure”) and examine his works from other established schools of criticism (rather than

relying only on traditional and formal approaches).

8 See the Selected List of Works Consulted

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Mariconda next addresses a number of works and articles by Robert M. Price. Price led

the way through the 1980s in deconstructing the conception of the “Cthulhu Mythos” that August

Derleth created after Lovecraft‟s death.9 While his contribution to that aspect of Lovecraft

studies was substantial during the 1980s, he does not receive much praise from Mariconda for his

recent publications. Both collections Mariconda reviews—The Horror of It All: Encrusted Gems

from the “Crypt of Cthulhu and H. P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos—are deemed

inconsistent in their level of insight and scholarship, which is unfortunate given some of the

excellent articles Price has contributed to the field. We‟ll return to Price‟s contribution to the

Books at Brown symposium on Lovecraft, as it demonstrates the quality of which he is capable.

Mariconda‟s last review is An Epicure in the Terrible: A Centennial Anthology of Essays

in Honor of H. P. Lovecraft. The collection was edited by David E. Schultz and S. T. Joshi, and

like Joshi‟s earlier Four Decades of Criticism, it serves as a marker for Lovecraft scholars at the

turn of the century, collecting essays from the 1980s written by the leading scholars in the field:

Burleson, Peter Cannon, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Kenneth Faig, Robert Price, Barton Levi St.

Armand, Robert Waugh, and Mariconda himself.

Another helpful source for assessing the state of Lovecraft scholarship at the beginning of

the 1990s is the Books at Brown issue devoted to Lovecraft, which collects expanded versions of

selected papers given by participants in the H. P. Lovecraft Centennial Conference in 1990. As

mentioned earlier, Peter Cannon opened the conference with “Some Thoughts on the Current

State of Lovecraft Studies,” followed by Burleson‟s paper “Lovecraft: Dreams and Reality.”

Burleson‟s contribution was somewhat atypical for his work, in that he revived scholarship that

9 See the transcription of the panel discussion “What is the Cthulhu Mythos?” held on October 31, 1986 a the
World Fantasy Convention in Providence, R.I.

Joshi, S. T, et al. "What Is the Cthulhu Mythos? A Panel Discussion." Lovecraft Studies 14 (1987): 3-30.
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focused on what has been called Lovecraft‟s “dream cycle” of stories. Will Murray, in

“Lovecraft‟s Arkham Country,” discusses Lovecraft‟s creation of the fictional town of Arkham,

analyzing how it corresponds to real-world locations, and explaining why the town seems to shift

over the course of Lovecraft‟s fiction. Robert Price‟s addition, “Lovecraft‟s Mythology of the

Old Ones,” challenges the anti-Derleth interpretation of Lovecraft‟s mythos. He does not entirely

defend Derleth, but he also does not condemn his take on Lovecraft, as Mosig, Tierney, and

Joshi have elsewhere. Instead, he suggests that there may still be room for religion in the remote

levels of Lovecraft‟s fiction. This entry is frustrating, however, because in the very next year,

Price will publishing “The Last Vestige of the Derleth Mythos” in Lovecraft Studies, in which he

ends: “Old Ones there are, to be sure, but let us not share the delusion of their human dupes, like

old Castro the Mestizo sailor, that they are gods” (21). This is, I think, the inconsistency with

which Mariconda takes issue in his review of Price‟s contributions to the field.

Moving forward in the 1990s, and looking for more substantial texts published and read

beyond the Lovecraft circle of scholars, we move to Joshi‟s The Weird Tale. This was one of

four other surveys of horror or weird fiction published in the 1990s that devote a chapter to

Lovecraft, and in it Joshi raises, in condensed form, the same points he raised in H. P. Lovecraft:

The Decline of the West. The others include Howard Bloom‟s Modern Horror Writers (1994),

American Horror Fiction: From Brockden Brown to Stephen King (1990) edited by Brian

Docherty, and American Supernatural Fiction: From Edith Wharton to the Weird Tales Writers

(1996) edited by Douglas Robillard and Benjamin F. Fisher. Bloom‟s Modern Horror Writers

provides only brief critical extracts from W. Paul Cook, Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, Maurice Levy,

Barton L. St. Armand, Donald R. Burleson, Peter Cannon, S. T. Joshi, Stefan Dziemianowicz,

and Steven Mariconda. While this selection does represent the most noteworthy Lovecraft
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scholars (except for Price‟s Cthulhu mythos discussion), it provides nothing approaching

completeness or thoroughness, and will not likely be useful for any but the most novice

Lovecraft readers.

Clive Bloom‟s chapter in American Horror Fiction, entitled “This Revolting Graveyard

of the Universe: The Horror Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft,” is unfortunately typical of the popular

perception of Lovecraft. Bloom approaches Lovecraft through a Freudian lens, attributing most

of Lovecraft‟s “neuroses” to the troubled relationship with his father. He is also rather dismissive

of Lovecraft, calling him a “strange and stranded personality” whose “output was small,

consisting of two novellas (one published after his death) and some short stories” (59). While it‟s

true that most scholars agree his best work consists of one novella (At the Mountains of

Madness) and a small number of stories, his total output was voluminous (four volumes, plus

miscellaneous writings, according to Arkham House), his letters number in the thousands, and

his contributions to amateur journalism in the hundreds, not to mention his work as editor and

ghostwriter. Bloom also bases the bulk of his analysis on Lovecraft‟s earlier tales, and clearly

has not read the works of Price, Joshi, and Cannon as he misrepresents Lovecraft‟s beliefs. The

most telling example: “Lovecraft … turned to his hobby of astronomy in order to create stories

about astrology and black magic bringing real monsters from the stars as star-spawn” (author‟s

emphasis) (70). Bloom‟s discussion of the petit-bourgeoisie and its role in shaping Lovecraft‟s

worldview and fiction is interesting, but ultimately must prove unhelpful given the misreading

and misunderstanding from which Bloom is working.

American Supernatural Fiction, in contrast, contains two chapters on Lovecraft (which is

surprising, given the work only contains six chapters in all), the first from S. T. Joshi and the

second from James Campbell. Joshi begins his “H. P. Lovecraft: The Fiction of Materialism” by
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emphasizing the importance of Lovecraft‟s philosophy in understanding the significance of his

fiction. “Lovecraft is remarkable in having articulated a highly complex, detailed, and carefully

considered world view that structured his entire work” (141). Joshi continues by outlining that

world view and showing its development through Lovecraft‟s letters, fiction, and other writings.

Campbell‟s first sentence in his “Cosmic Indifferentism in the Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft” seems

almost tailored to Clive Bloom‟s piece: “Until recently the intellectual power of H. P.

Lovecraft‟s fiction has not been sufficiently appreciated by the general reading public or by

academic critics” (167). Campbell then goes on to analyze the philosophical system contained

within Lovecraft‟s fiction, which he terms “cosmic indifferentism.” This is covering similar

ground as Joshi‟s contribution, but instead of working from the outside in (Joshi grounds his

analysis in Lovecraft‟s life and applies it to the fiction), Campbell is working from the inside

out—he examines the fiction directly and deduces from it the philosophical systems at work.

Campbell‟s analysis includes a lengthy consideration of At the Mountains of Madness, exploring

not only the philosophical themes in the work, but also the conception of the “Old Ones”—

Lovecraft‟s great beings from beyond. Campbell provides a thorough and insightful addition to

Lovecraft scholarship.

By 1996, Lovecraft scholarship seemed to have reached a new stage. Joshi released A

Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft, a revision of his 1982 Starmont

Reader‟s Guide to H. P. Lovecraft. In the introduction, Joshi asserts: “we have now reached the

stage where many of the basic facts needed for a sound analysis of Lovecraft are available, and it

is now the responsibility of scholars to make use of these facts in order to produce ever more

subtle and profound studies of the man and his work” (5). As should be expected from Joshi, this

is a comprehensive introduction, meticulously researched, with helpful annotated primary and

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secondary bibliographies. Joshi begins with a brief overview of his life (a task no doubt made

easier by his release of H. P. Lovecraft: A Life that same year) and then addresses the stages of

Lovecraft‟s fiction, which he divides into early, Dunsanian, regional, major fiction: first stage,

and major fiction: second stage. He then addresses Lovecraft‟s revisions and collaborations, his

essays, poetry, and letters.

The final major work of scholarship in the 1990s is Timo Airaksinen‟s The Philsophy of

H. P. Lovecraft: The Route to Horror (1999). Airaksinen calls the work “an extended exercise in

the philosophical reading of literature and authorship” (viii). The majority of the text is a story-

by-story analysis, identifying major philosophical positions supported by each. Airaksinen‟s

overall claim is that Lovecraft‟s work was, for Lovecraft at least, always about their aesthetic

effect, and any ideas Lovecraft pursues, he pursues them “not philosophically but artistically”

(163). In other words, for Lovecraft, the aesthetics of the piece came first, in every story, and any

ideas contained in them were secondary. By extension, Airaksinen argues that Lovecraft was not

building a philosophical body of work through his stories. While his study provides helpful

insights, and adds a new perspective and voice to a body of scholarship in danger of becoming

stagnant for lack of new scholars, Airaksinen‟s style is sometimes disjointed and difficult to


A number of articles appeared during the 1990s in publications that reached an audience

beyond the circle of Lovecraft scholars and fans. Perhaps the most article that provided the

greatest boost to Lovecraft‟s reputation in the larger literary world was Joyce Carol Oates‟s 1996

Halloween review of Joshi‟s Lovecraft biography, Arkham House editions of Lovecraft‟s

writings, and the five-volume Selected Letters. The title of the review hails Lovecraft as “The

King of Weird.” She goes on to say: “… more systematically than Poe, Lovecraft set forth an
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aesthetics of the art [of the gothic tradition]” (46). She continues the comparison to Poe, again

giving Lovecraft the upper-hand: “both writers have had an incalculable influence on succeeding

generations of writers of horror fiction, and Lovecraft is arguably the more beloved by

contemporary gothic aficionados” (48). She also offers sharp insights, expressed succinctly and

scattered throughout the review, the best of which is a concise analysis of the blend of gothic and

science fiction sentiments in Lovecraft‟s work: “A hybrid of the traditional gothic and „science

fiction,‟ Lovecraft is clearly gothic in temperament; his „science‟ has its own fictional logic, yet

it is never future-oriented, but directed obsessively into the distant past” (51).

A year later, Extrapolation published Bennett Lovett-Graff‟s “Shadows over Lovecraft:

Reactionary Fantasy and Immigrant Eugenics.” This article returns to the issue of Lovecraft‟s

xenophobia and racial prejudices, discussing the general racial climate of the time, including a

discussion of the eugenics movement in terms of the recent scientific findings of August

Weismann and his germ-plasm theory. Lovett-Graff uses this theory to analyze “The Shadow

over Innsmouth,” showing how Lovecraft‟s disdain for other races and fear of mixed breeding

shows through his fiction. Certainly not a flattering side to Lovecraft‟s work, but a valid

component nonetheless, and Lovett-Graff provides a helpful discussion that, rather than merely

attacking Lovecraft, seeks to explain both the times in which he was writing and the effect those

times had on his thinking and his fiction.

The first major article after the year 2000 is Bradley A. Will‟s “H. P. Lovecraft and the

Semiotic Kantian Sublime” in the Spring edition of Extrapolation. Will is concerned here with

connecting Lovecraft‟s “mechanistic materialist” world view with the greater scheme of Western

philosophy. In particular, Will connects Lovecraft‟s engagement of the sublime to Emmanuel

Kant‟s philosophy, connecting “the „soul-shattering‟ sense of awe and wonder” Lovecraft‟s
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characters encounter in his fiction with “the Kantian model of the sublime, which is predicated

on a failure of the faculty of understanding” (7). Will then goes on to explain Kant‟s

understanding of the sublime and how it functions within a mechanistic world view, connecting

that understanding with Lovecraft‟s fiction, particularly “The Colour Out of Space” and “Call of

Cthulhu.” Of the articles that address Lovecraft in terms of his philosophy, I found this one to be

the most helpful, as well as the article that goes furthest in extending Lovecraft‟s importance

beyond his circle of fans and scholars.

In 2004, Extrapolation also published Timothy H. Evans‟s “Tradition and Illusion:

Antiquarianism, Tourism and Horror in H. P. Lovecraft.” Evans revisits a common trend in

scholarship—the importance of place and tradition in Lovecraft‟s fiction—but offers new

insights by connecting those concerns with Lovecraft‟s cosmology. In Evans‟s words: “The

tension between the antiquarian and the cosmic … is the source of Lovecraft‟s worldview and of

the unique power of his fiction” (176). Evans details Lovecraft‟s interests in travel, architecture,

the Colonial period, and the importance of place, showing how these concerns are reflected in his

fiction and contrasting them with the cosmic other-worldliness of his horrors.

Two articles published in 2004 confirm that the argument over what constitutes the

“Cthulhu mythos” is far from over: Mark Lowell‟s “Lovecraft‟s Cuthulhu Mythos” in the The

Explicator and Massimo Berruti‟s “H. P. Lovecraft and the Anatomy of the Nothingness: The

Cthulhu Mythos” in Semiotica. In Lowell‟s analysis—perhaps building on Joshi‟s assertion that

the mythos is, at bottom, an anti-mythology—he compares Lovecraft‟s mythos with Joseph

Campbell‟s conception of the hero‟s mythic cycle. Lowell asserts that what qualifies a work as

belonging to the mythos, more than anything else, is “how a story evokes horror”—that it relies

on an “expansive and devastating confrontation with the unknown” (47). Instead of returning
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from the heroic myth cycle victorious, bearing a boon for civilization as in Campbell‟s

construction, character‟s in Lovecraft encounter truth and are shattered by it.

Berutti‟s provides a more complex and comprehensive analysis. The article focuses

predominantly on “The Call of Cthulhu” and begins with an analysis of the styles and techniques

Lovecraft employs in the work. Specifically, Berutti highlights the constant “doubling” in the

narrative and the participatory role the reader is obliged to take. One example of doubling is the

“cosmic” and “terror” hints that the reader must piece together—cosmic hints being those that

“allude to realities and truths „ulterior‟ if compared with those that the phenomenal, visible world

presents on its surface” (364). Terror hints are those that allude to threats in the “phenomenal,

visible” world. Doubling also refers to the “both personal tragedy awaiting the narrator and a

greater horror awaiting the world” (367). Berutti also examines the narrative structure of the

story, and agrees with Joshi that it is Lovecraft‟s most complex piece (369). Berutti next moves

into a discussion of knowledge and ignorance, and the dangers knowledge brings in Lovecraft‟s

world—full knowledge of the reality of our existence would lead to psychological destruction.

This concept is connected to the failure of language to convey meaning throughout the tale, from

the strange guttural chants of Cthulhu‟s worshippers to the strange carved figure and its

unidentifiable substance to the indecipherable ideograms carved on the figure‟s base (378). The

last half of the work traces the development of the Cthulhu mythos, ending with At the

Mountains of Madness and the conclusion that, however Lovecraft may have originally

conceived the mythos, the final assessment is not grounded in spirituality but in science: the

Great Old Ones are extraterrestrials, not gods. And the debate continues.

Through these works—book-length texts and articles—Lovecraft scholarship has begun

its rise to visibility in the larger academic community, moving from the relatively closed circle of
Hoefler 17

scholarship in the 1980s to more book-length treatments in 1990. Also, scholarship appeared in

journals with larger audiences, and the type of criticism applied to Lovecraft‟s work moved from

the traditional and formal schools into those of psychoanalysis and post-structuralism. After

2000, scholarship was advanced by articles that, though few in number to date, received wider

recognition and contributed substantially to the field rather than merely recapitulating previous

work, connecting Lovecraft to larger trends in Western intellectual history and new schools of

analysis. Along with the release of Lovecraft‟s fiction by more reputable publishing houses,

these trends, if they continue, are hopeful signs for Lovecraft‟s continued study and appreciation.
Hoefler 18

Works Cited

Airaksinen, Timo. The Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft: The Route to Horror. New Studies in

Aesthetics. Vol. 29. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.

Berruti, Massimo. "H.P. Lovecraft and the Anatomy of the Nothingness: The Cthulhu Mythos."

Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies/Revue de

l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique 150.1-4 (2004): 363-418.

Bloom, Clive. "This Revolting Graveyard of the Universe: The Horror Fiction of H. P.

Lovecraft." American Horror Fiction: From Brockden Brown to Stephen King. Ed. Brian

Docherty. New York: St. Martin's, 1990. 59-72.

Burleson, Donald R. "Lovecraft: Dreams and Reality." Books at Brown 38-39 (1991-1992): 7-12.

---. Lovecraft: Disturbing the Universe. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1990.

Campbell, James. "Cosmic Indifferentism in the Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft." American

Supernatural Fiction: From Edith Wharton to the Weird Tales Writers. Eds. Douglas

Robillard and Benjamin F. Fisher. Vol. 6. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities.

New York: Garland, 1996. 167-228.

Cannon, Peter. "In Defense of Tusas 549." Lovecraft Studies 18 (1989): 25-27.

---. "Some Thoughts on the Current State of Lovecraft Studies." Books at Brown 38-39 (1991-

1992): 1-5.

---. H. P. Lovecraft. Twayne's United States Authors Series. Vol. 549. Boston: Twayne

Publishers, 1989.

Cook, W. Paul. "A Plea for Lovecraft." Lovecraft Studies 19-20 (1989): 26-27.
Hoefler 19

Evans, Timothy H. "Tradition and Illusion: Antiquarianism, Tourism and Horror in H. P.

Lovecraft." Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 45.2 (2004): 176-


Joshi, S. T. "H. P. Lovecraft: The Fiction of Materialism." American Supernatural Fiction: From

Edith Wharton to the Weird Tales Writers. Eds. Douglas Robillard and Benjamin F.

Fisher. Vol. 6. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities. New York: Garland, 1996.

---. A Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft. The Milford Series:

Popular Writers of Today. 2nd Revised ed. Vol. 62. San Bernardino: Borgo, 1996.

---. H. P. Lovecraft and Lovecraft Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography. Kent: Kent State

University Press, 1981.

---. H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West. Mercer Island: Starmont House, 1990.

---. The Weird Tale: Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, Ambrose

Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.

---., ed. H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decade of Criticism. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1980.

Leiber, Fritz, Jr. “A Literary Copernicus.” H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades of Criticism. Ed. S. T.

Joshi. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1980. 50-62.

Lovett-Graff, Bennett. "Shadows over Lovecraft: Reactionary Fantasy and Immigrant Eugenics."

Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 38.2 (1997): 175-92.

Lowell, Mark. "Lovecraft's 'Cthulhu Mythos'." Explicator 63.1 (Fall 2004): 47-50.

Mariconda, Steve J. "'Expect Great Revelations': Lovecraft Criticism in His Centennial Year."

Lovecraft Studies 24 (1991): 24-29.

Murray, Will. "Lovecraft's Arkham Country." Books at Brown 38-39 (1991-1992): 19-29.
Hoefler 20

Oates, Joyce Carol. "The King of Weird." New York Review of Books 43.17. 31 Oct. 1996: 46,


Price, Robert M. The Horror of It All: Encrusted Gems from the "Crypt of Cthulhu." Mercer

Island: Starmont House, 1990.

---. "Lovecraft's Mythology of the Old Ones." Books at Brown 38-39 (1991-1992): 31-42.

---. "The Last Vestige of the Derleth Mythos." Lovecraft Studies. 24 (1991): 20-21.

---. H. P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. San Bernardino: Borgo, 1990.

Schultz, David E., and S. T. Joshi, eds. An Epicure in the Terrible: A Centennial Anthology of

Essays in Honor of H. P. Lovecraft. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press,


Will, Bradley A. "H. P. Lovecraft and the Semiotic Kantian Sublime." Extrapolation: A Journal

of Science Fiction and Fantasy 43.1 (2002): 7-21.

Wilson, Edmund. "Tales of the Marvellous and the Ridiculous." H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades

of Criticism. Ed. S. T. Joshi. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1980. 46-49.

Hoefler 21

Selected List of Works Consulted

Boelhower, William. "'I Am Providence': Working Sites of Identity." Formations of Cultural

Identity in the English-Speaking World. Eds. Jochen Achilles and Carmen Birkle. Vol.

251. Anglistische Forschungen. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1998. 241-


Handler, Daniel. "'H. P. Lovecraft': Unnatural Selection." Book Review. The New York Times

Sunday Book Review 17 April 2005, Late Edition ed., sec. 7: 7.

Joshi, S. T, et al. "What Is the Cthulhu Mythos? A Panel Discussion." Lovecraft Studies 14

(1987): 3-30.

Lovecraft, H. P. At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels. Eds. August Derleth and S. T.

Joshi. Sauk City: Arkham House Publishers, Inc., 1964.

---. Dagon and Other Macabre Tales. Eds. August Derleth and S. T. Joshi. Sauk City: Arkham

House Publishers, Inc., 1965.

---. The Dunwich Horror and Others. Eds. August Derleth and S. T. Joshi. Sauk City: Arkham

House Publishers, Inc., 1963.

---. The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions. Eds. August Derleth and S. T. Joshi. Sauk

City: Arkham House Publishers, Inc., 1989.

Lovett-Graff, Bennett. "Lovecraft: Reproduction and Its Discontents: Degeneration and

Detection in 'the Lurking Fear'." Para-doxa 1.3 (1995): 325-41.

McInnis, John. "H. P. Lovecraft's Immortal Culture." Death and the Serpent: Immortality in

Science Fiction and Fantasy. Eds. Carl B. Yoke and Donald M. Hassler. Vol. 13.

Westport: Greenwood, 1985. 125-34.

Hoefler 22

Nelson, Victoria. "H. P. Lovecraft and the Great Heresies." Raritan: A Quarterly Review 15.3

(1996): 92-121.

Oakes, David A. Science and Destabilization in the Modern American Gothic: Lovecraft,

Matheson, and King. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Price, Robert M. "Demythologizing Cthulhu." Lovecraft Studies 3.1 (1984): 3-9.

Price, Robert M. "H. P. Lovecraft: Prophet of Humanism." Humanist 61.4 (2001): 26-29.

Price, Robert M. "The Revision Mythos." Lovecraft Studies 4.2 (1985): 43-50.

Schnabel, William. "Dioscuri and the Self's Monstrous Double: Two Lovecraftian Doubles."

Paradoxa: Studies in World Literary Genres 5.13-14 (1999-2000): 226-44.

Wohleber, Curt. "The Man Who Could Scare Stephen King." American Heritage 46.8 (1995):